Well folks, that's it for the 2011-2012 seasons for Cross Country and Track and Field. With the conclusion of the World Junior Championships, all athletes are home for the season, and building towards either college or those cross country courses in the fall. We here at MileSplit NY have just finished our first year as well, as we became independent early last August. Since that time, you've viewed our page over 10 million times, and added to our growing Facebook and Twitter followings. We've had great performances, new breakout stars, and countless new state records. To put it lightly, it has been a great year for the Empire State. To commemorate the end of the season, we'd like to look back at our top 10 moments from the past year. These may not be the fastest times or best performances, but they were moments that were aided by the stories behind them, the rivalries established, and the accomplishments achieved. We'll be releasing two a day, with the top pick being released on Saturday night. While they are ranked numerically, their order is only slightly important. Each moment proved thrilling for the track fan, and we look forward to even more in 2013. And be sure to sound off in our comments for moments you think we missed, as cutting this down to a list of ten was not easy.
1. Cain's Kick Started at Franklin Field, And Carried Her Past The Country
Mary Cain (Bronxville) has been the talk of the sport in 2012. The times she produced at the climax of her freshmen year only scratched the surface of what was to come. But her 2012 campaign wasn't always flawless. There was a clear progression in its scope. When cross country began, there was only skeptical optimism about how readily her track times would translate to the courses of cross country. It would be only her second season competing in the sport, but her first as a medal contender. Cain began to show promise over the longer distances however, running unnopposed in a slower section of the Manhattan Invitational, where her time would of 14:31.10 (4k) would place her 4th overall in a merged competition. Big wins followed at the St. Anthony's Invitational as well as the Section 1 Coaches meet, in which Cain broke the Section 1 course record on the very hard Bowdoin Park. By the time her Section 1 Championship rolled around, she had proven herself as a force in the 5000m cross country run. More than qualifying for the State Meet, Cain would go on to run the third fastest time of the day, and aid her team to win the Class C title over Greenwich in a tough competition. Continuing on, she would break her own course record the following weekend to win the Federation Championship, and then again find herself in the third place spot at the NXN-NY qualifier. Running at Nike Cross Nationals, Cain would improve again to be NY"s #2 finsiher, and take 6th overall in the National Championship.
For Indoor Track, Cain didn't slow down. While at the time she was most noted for her 800m speed, that would have to wait until outdoors, as Cain began her attack on the record book at 1000m. After brushing with the State Record at the Mitchell Meet, she would later go on to hit the mark at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. Also running several 3000m races, she would go on to be the NY #2 time in the event. And then there was the 1500m, in which she would be competing at in the NYS State Indoor Championships. Winning the Mile at the Hispanic Games, but only taking 4th at Millrose, Cain would go into the State Qualifer being more finely tuned for the 1000m. While she would qualify with ease, the State Championship would not be so easy. She would be facing Brianna Nerud (North Shore), who had beaten her at the Millrose Games. As the race went out, and Nerud pushed the pace hard, Cain would produce a kick remniscint of Zavon Watkins (Liverpool), yet at the same time completely different. Cain was kicking in times that seemed more adequatly attributed to an 800m race. She split 29.5 at the end of her 1500m at States to not only grab the gold, but to also set new New York State Records, as well as the National Sophomore Record. And then, it was a return to the 800m. At New Balance Indoor Nationals, in her first return to the event that put her on the map, Cain would be facing off against Ajee Wilson (Neptune), the best half miler in the country. The slow pace of the opening laps of the race wouldn't prove to birth any records, but it came down to a kick with which Ajee Wilson was able to respond too. Cain would cross second, in 2:07.26
The Indoor season had elevated Cain from State Standout, to National Record Danger. With the association came the attention. Both press and pressure come with the territory, and a coaching change mid-december only added to the onlookers. And Cain responded to the situation as best as any 15-year-old could; she would answer all questions, but made her training her priority. By this point, she had a goal: The Olympic Trials. Her Outdoor season would be spent in search of this goal, and her training geared toward it. The approach would mean less racing towards fitness, and dedicating meets to single events. And even more impressive, her view was much bigger than most expected. Cain wanted an Olympic "B" standard in both the 800m and the 1500m. And her progression seemed all about it. She would open her season with an 800m at the New York Relays. She would go 2:05.9 to win the event, already dropping below her freshmen open PR. But the weekend following her win, would be the #1 Moment in 2012, for everything it began.
The Penn Relays Invite Mile featured some of the best talent in the tri-state area and beyond. The two biggest names destined to meet up in the final lap were Mary Cain, and 2-time defending champ Angel Piccirillo (Homer Central). As the gun went off, and the crowd watched, Piccirillo and Cain moved to the front of the pack, and began to push the pace in unison. 2 and a half times around, they were still stride for stride at a pace that seemed as if the defending champ was determining. But when the bell went off, Cain did the unthinable. She kicked like never before, as if her speed from her indoor states kick had doubled, and closed the final lap in an astounding 62.5 to claim the Penn Relays Record in 4:39.5. The moment is so significant because it was the beginning of something special, a season that would see every goal accomplished and then some. It would show Cain was now fearless in her kick, and unwavering in her competitive spirit.
Cain would go on to achieve both of her "B" standards, as she went 2:03.34 in the 800m at the Loucks Games, and after barely missing the 1500m time by .02 seconds at the Lions Club Invite, Cain would grab 4:16.52 at the Section 1 State Qualifier. And then, thats when her post season began. Each of her big meets would be attributed to only one race, and one goal per race. At States, her eyes were on the podium, where fast times would be prevented by the ongoing rain. She won in a relaxed 4:19.78, elite by most standards. As she awaited news in the early summer, she was contacted and informed that she had made the entry into the Olympic Trials for the 800m. But that would have to wait, as Cain was vying for a spot in Indianapolis to represent her country in the World Junior Championships. Cain qualified easily, and punched her ticket for the 1500m, and then changed her direction towards the half. By far, Cain was one of the youngest competitors in this years Olympic Trials. Now 16, she barely made the age cutoff, and was in the same heat as some of the World's Greatest. Remarkably, Cain held her own, finishing 18th in a field of 32 that would qualify 16 for the semi's. It was regardless a goal achieved, and an experience that couldn't be forgotten.
In Barcelona, it was back to the 1500m. Running to qualify, Cain dropped her own PR in achieving a spot in the finals, as she would run 4:14.77. It put everyone on notice, as the time was shockingly close to the National Record, set by Jordan Hasay in 2008. Hasay had been labeled everything from America's distance future, and the record proved her dominance 4 years ago. But the final at the IAAF World Junior Champs, Cain was introduced to something she had not been accustomed too. SHe found herself running against girls who were just as good as she was, if not better. Coming into her signiature final lap, she could chase someone, pulling herself to a much better time. And what a time it was that she was pulled too by the young Kenyan talent of Faith Kipyegon, who will be running in the Olympics herself for the Kenyan National Team. Cain had not only gotten the record, but she had lowered it an astonishing 3 seconds, to where it now stands at 4:11.01.
This is why the Penn Relays Mile Race was so significant. It was the starting point, where everyone got a glimpse of what Cain was actually capable of. I hope you enjoyed this list, and know that this list could have gone to at least 30, where each moment would be a seperate record, performance, or experience that made fans go "Wow." New York truly lives in the golden age of running.